Polity & Governance
- The role of Arhatiyas in rural Punjab; row over linking farmers’ details to central database
[Note: Today’s PIB Daily News are already covered in Today’s Current Affairs Analysis. This PIB News Analysis news are only for those who wants to get only PIB news]
For IASToppers Current Affairs Analysis Archive, Click Here
For IASToppers’ PIB Daily Archive, Click Here
Polity & Governance
The role of Arhatiyas in rural Punjab; row over linking farmers’ details to central database
Under pressure from the Centre, the Punjab Food Department has directed all government procurement agencies to link the bank accounts of farmers with the Public Finance Management System (PFMS) portal before the procurement of paddy begins.
- This has angered the arhatiyas (commission agents), a large number of whom want the government to roll back its decision.
WHAT IS THE PFMS PORTAL?
- It is an online platform developed and implemented by the office of the Controller General of Accounts (CGA) under the Union Ministry of Finance.
- Its objective is to establish an online financial management information system for tracking of funds released under all plan schemes and real time reporting of expenditure at all levels.
- It is administered by the Department of Expenditure.
- It initially started as a Plan scheme named Central Plan Scheme Monitoring System (CPSMS) of the Planning Commission in 2008-09 as a pilot in Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, Punjab and Mizoram for four Flagship schemes e.g. MGNREGS, NRHM, SSA and PMGSY.
- It provides scheme managers a unified platform for tracking releases and monitoring their last mile utilisation.
- It provides platform for efficient management of funds through tracking of funds and real time reporting of expenditure and receipts through treasury and bank interface.
- The line ministries/departments utilise this platform to monitor the utilisation of funds provided to the implementing agencies and state governments.
- PFMS is also used for DBT payments under MGNREGA and other notified schemes of the Government of India.
WHY ARE ARHATIYAS AGAINST IT?
- In the present case, the idea is to monitor the accounts of farmers to ensure they get the payment for their crops from the arhatiyas, who pay farmers only after selling their produce and receiving the money from the buyers.
- The Food and Civil Supplies Department has announced that if accounts are not linked with the PFMS portal, the arhatiyas’ commission would not be released.
- The arhatiyas have claimed that the farmers are not willing to share the details.
- They also fear that the government might, in future, make payments directly to farmers cutting the agents out altogether.
IS THIS EFFORT AN ENTIRELY NEW INITIATIVE?
- Punjab’s earlier government had launched a ‘direct payment’ scheme under the Punjab Agriculture Market Act, under which farmers to received payments directly for their crop sold to government agencies.
- In April 2019, Union Minister for Consumer Affairs asked Punjab to take the procurement system online to cut out arhatiyas’s high commission in Punjab compared to other states.
- However, neither of these efforts were successful.
WHAT ARE ARHATIYAS ARE IMPORTANT?
- Arhatiyas are powerful figures in the rural landscape as each Arhatiya (agent) has between 20 and 200 farmers, whose crops he sells.
- Even the government is dependent on the arhatiyas, who provide fans, weighing machines, and labour to shortstaffed government agencies.
- Arhatiyas are also moneylenders who fund farmers’ requirements of cash for both cropping operations and personal and social requirements.
- For many farmers, borrowing from the arhatiya, whom they know personally, is easier and more convenient than approaching a bank with its unfamiliar procedures.